My review contains spoilers and they're are mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
The latest installment in Natasha Storm’s Eve’s Grotto series, Sinbound, was quite interesting. Personally, I’m really enjoying this fantasy the world she created, where men are kept as Pets and the autonomy is held only by the women. I’ll try to talk a little about the earlier installment before I get in to my review of Sinbound.
In the first installment, Lustbound, we were introduced to two extreme worlds; one called the Compound and the other, The Grotto. The compound was the opposite of the Grotto where men run things and dominate over women. They served no other purpose but to be married to chosen men, serve their needs and produce children. Our heroine, Christine was from that place but she longed to escape. One day, the chance arrived and she suddenly finds herself in the Grotto; a place everyone whispered about, a place said to be only the stuff of stories and legends. Soon Christine is left to determine her place in this society. She’s not used to giving commands, specifically to men and treating them literally like pets. They would serve you; do anything you ask for (within the bounds of the laws of course). Men are controlled by magical collars and handcuffs to reduce their ‘natural tendency for violence’. Christine finds more troubles, one after another, alongside her internal conflicts about what to do in this environment. My own thoughts were that the Grotto was no less imbalanced than the Compound, and I also totally got Christine’s mental stress of being in a place like that. She has no other choice but to train for a life here and must learn to live like a woman of the Grotto if she wants to survive.
Valentine, our hero, is a Manor pet. The ceremony of choosing pets, differences between the Manor pets and the kept pets and how they’re made to believe this is the way a man should live, all are explained in book 1. Manor pets aren’t supposed to have unauthorized sex with a woman, but Valentine, who was becoming restless in this lifestyle, had a penchant for breaking rules. He’s a ladies’ man, very beautiful and excels in anything he does. He’s done stuff just for the adrenaline rush and forbidden thrills. But inside, Valentine is barely alive. He’s just functioning through a robotic life he has no hands in creating; both literally and metaphorically. I liked him even though I didn’t like knowing about his sexual exploits much. But I understood that he had no other choice. His latest lover, Yvette, is a dominant and b*tchy woman who is used to getting her way. Her magical powers are very strong and she had bound Valentine to her, so that she can call him on her whim to pleasure her. It’s not that she doesn’t have any other kept pets, there are many of those but Yvette’s depravity knows no bound. The only thing she can’t do is to force him to have sex, but she can control his sexual needs somewhat to make him want to have sex with her.
So far Valentine has abide by Yvette’s whims since it also gave him some diversions. But when he meets Christine, her innocence and honesty, things he never really experienced living all his life in the Grotto, got to him. Valentine falls hard for her. They come closer and become intimate, both emotionally and sexually. In time, in the pet choosing ceremony, Christine would’ve chosen Valentine but Yvette, who was also hell-bent on having him, forces her magically to give Valentine up. Christine becomes scared, yet no less adamant to save Valentine from this evil b*tch’s clutches.
Through Yvette we get to see the kind of evil resides in the Grotto and I knew she’d be a trouble for Valentine and Christine in the coming installments. Also, the thoughts of being free would never bring anything good for a pet, and Valentine knew it. Yet, with Christine with him, he can dream... at least for now.
In this installment, the story continues from Lustbound. Christine has her own Pet named Jake, who is nice and kind to her always. He’s good looking and all that but Christine can’t consummate their relationship. She can’t think of Jake that way because Valentine is always on her mind. She tries her best to do something for Valentine, to help him and for that, Christine focuses on choosing Magic as her profession in Grotto, even though she knows it’d be very difficult for her. She’s supposed to be choosing a profession anyway, and if she’s more knowledgeable about the kind of magic that rules this place and these men. She fails to gain access to that guild, thanks to Yvette.
After a misunderstanding with Valentine in the beginning of the story, Christine starts to feel vulnerable. She’s cranky to Jake, his kindness chafes raw because Christine can’t return his regard. Even though he’s also bound by the magic, Jake is always patient with her. He even tries to physically console her more than once but Christine thwarts his touches. It felt bad and I understood Christine’s feelings. Just why Valentine left her that way just after making love was eating at her and he won’t tell her what’s holding him back. I was a bit confused about Christine’s knowledge of Valentine’s relationship with Yvette, but apparently she couldn’t guess till now that these two were lovers once.
Valentine is already trying his best to avert Yvette’s advances, even when she forces him to visit her private rooms. He’s disgusted by Yvette’s activities now. Valentine can now see the difference between Yvette and Christine’s nature so clearly that it makes him ache to have hurt Christine that way. But he can’t tell her about Yvette’s spell, not without putting them both in danger. No one can know about his relationship with Christine for that matter.
There is this trial at the Grotto of a pet that worries Christine and Valentine equally. This pet, Vincent, fell in love with his owner and now he’ll suffer some horrible fate. Christine observes the trial with a heavy heart, unlike the other women who are born into this society and this is nothing for them- to ruin a life, which seems so expendable to them. As she watches, Christine notices that Vincent looks astonishingly like Valentine. Later we learn that pets aren’t supposed to have a family since they don’t know to whom they were born to. Valentine learns of a connection he never even thought about finding in his life.
Christine gradually guesses as to why Yvette is so rabid about owing Valentine and it hurts her… she can’t even think of the reason. Must say, I had to agree again. She even tries to forget about Valentine, and gives into Jake’s sweet kisses. Even though she fails and (I felt) Jake was embarrassed, even a little hurt, I was totally cheering for him. Crazy, I know because it’d be cheating on Christine’s part but I still did. For some reasons, I find Jake sexy. He doesn’t speak much to Christine, yet there’s something about his reactions to her that gets to me. I’d really appreciate it if Jake finally finds someone to love because he deserves his own girl.
When Christine and Valentine finally sort their misunderstanding out, Christine is more than determined to find something... anything to help Valentine. It is so plain that these two are already in love but this is a place where love such as this will only bring them disaster and misery. The trial of Vincent only made them more aware of it. Christine also meets some new people along the way, i.e. Vincent’s owner who turned out to be someone she doesn’t at all seem like. She gives an offer that confuses and scares Christine, but equally tempts her because it just might prove helpful for their cause. For right now, they both want a way out of this restricted and imbalanced society, one way or the other.
Valentine was still struggling to fight off Yvette’s spell and thinking more about freedom and Christine and them being together someday. In the end, his defiance angers Yvette and she strikes back in her dirty way… And we are left to contemplate Valentine’s fate after that.
I had a few complaints while I read this installment. Though they aren’t big ones, I still think I should mention. One, I thought there wasn’t much of a development plot-wise until at the very end. It made the story a little slow for me in the middle. And then of course, the ending was so abrupt... I’m worried for Valentine and now I have to wait for the next installment to find out what fate has in store for our seemingly doomed hero and the heroine (Hurry up Natasha! Lol). But overall, I generally enjoy Natasha’s voice a lot and Sinbound wasn’t any different.
This copy of Sinbound was provided to me by the author herself in exchange of an honest review. I’d like to thank her for it.